5 Japanese garden ideas: create a zen space in your backyard

These Japanese garden ideas will help you try something different in your garden this fall. The design of Japanese gardens is very different from the design of Western gardens, with a much more minimalist approach to planting and decorating. Japanese gardens are calming, tranquil spaces meant for contemplation, and if you’ve fallen in love with their beauty (as we have), there are several elements you can easily incorporate into your existing garden. Take a look below.

Then find more garden ideas in our ultimate gallery.

1. Plant aceres

Acer palmatum

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

Acers, also known as Japanese maples, are hardy trees that require little maintenance and thrive in shady and sheltered places. Adding one to your garden is the easiest way to create a Japanese look in your garden. Acers rarely need pruning and naturally take on a graceful shape.

2. Start a rock garden

Japanese rock garden, by David Martin

(Image credit: Unsplash / David Martin)

Rockeries are a staple in the design of Japanese gardens. They are much more spared than alpine rockeries: in fact, you can just have an area with a single rock surrounded by fine granite gravel, which you then rake in the characteristic circular patterns. Simple and very beautiful.

Find more rock garden ideas in our gallery.

Rock garden

(Image credit: Unsplash / Kari Shea)

3. Space your plants

Japanese garden

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The “less is more” philosophy definitely applies to the Japanese garden style, and Japanese gardeners often say that the spaces between plants are as important as the plants themselves. So choose a few beautiful mature trees and a few smaller plants, but avoid an overly dense planting scheme.

Japanese garden

(Image credit: Unsplash / Juanita Swart)

4. Add a water feature

Japanese garden with pond

(Image credit: Unsplash / Jeff Finley)

A carp pond is such a classic Japanese garden idea. Plant water lilies, irises, and pond grasses to create a tranquil pond scene.

Find out how to build a pond in our guide.

Water lilies

(Image credit: Unsplash / Riccardo Chiarini)

5. Plant a fruit tree as a centerpiece

Japan cherry tree

(Image credit: Unsplash / Mike Marquez)

Cherry blossoms play an important role in Japanese culture, but they look great in any garden. There are many varieties of Japanese flowering cherry trees: some grow very tall, others can be grown in containers. Plant yours in a prominent spot in the garden – you want these flowers to take center stage in the spring.

6. Experiment with bonsai

japanese bonsai

(Image credit: Unsplash / Meritt Thomas)

If you have very limited space in your garden then a bonsai tree could be a wonderful way to add that Japanese element. Bonsai trees require a bit more maintenance than regular trees, but some are hardy and will do well on a patio.

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